Brands on the Verge: Villainess Gets the Girls


Brand: Villainess Soap
Headquarters: Waverly, Tenn.
Product: Body care (lotion, scrubs, soaps)
Launch date: August 2003
Sales: 2008 sales, which are in the low six digits, tripled thanks in part to a Victorian-style makeover to packaging, Web site, etc.
Competition: Arcana, another boutique brand with a Goth sensibility
Distribution: Posh Brats, Den of Antiquities, The Soap Box, Gorey Details (a shop that sells goth-y Edward Gorey ephemeral)
Claims: “Redefining bad”
Secret weapon: “Our sense of humor,” Stant said. “We’re not so gothic and pretentious that we’re unapproachable”
New products: Facial care, such as exfoliants for sensitive skin, moisturizing spritzers, a
signature cosmetics line

Barbie has held a lot of jobs in her 50 years: a stewardess, a vet, an astronaut, a McDonald’s cashier, a rocker. But a self-taught soapmaker who started a Fight Club-type business sans the fighting? That doll has yet to be molded, but we know the perfect model.

“Since 2003, Villainess has been doing everything wrong,” her company’s press release proudly proclaims in its first paragraph. Brooke Stant is the 27-year-old owner of Villainess. She’s a hip, Southern soapmaker who’s blending alchemy with anti-marketing to appeal to gals (and guys) who aren’t exactly Abercrombie. The concept of her line is built on “pretentious literary allusions paired with evocative fragrances and botanical elements.” She has two employees, one of whom is her mom.

The soaps have exotic names such as Paradise Misplaced (“Sweetly creamed coconut with touches of mango offset by crisp green tea”); Silk & Cyanide (“Almond. Crisp, barely sweet, pervasive and altogether sinister”); and Dulces en Fuego (“Musky bitter chocolate sweetened with vanilla and touches of citrus then positively inflamed with black pepper and nutmeg”). The fragrance-free product is aptly named Ennui.

Soaps sell for $5 a bar, and scrubs and lotions are $10. Mainly a body care and fragrance line, Villainess is expanding into facial care.

“I don’t have a business or a marketing background,” said Stant, “so I don’t know what the ‘rules’ are. I swim upstream sometimes.”

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